Jerusalem Environment and Nature Conference: Biodiversity

Lawrence Kasmir
January 21, 2014

The focus of the 7th Annual Jerusalem Environment & Nature Conference was biodiversity

60 Years of Nature Protection in Israel: What’s next?

In many ways it felt appropriate that the day after the passing of Azaria Alon, the forefather of Israel’s environmental movement and co-founder of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), SPNI pondered the question “What’s next for Israeli nature” at its 6th Annual Jerusalem Conference. The picture emerging from the various panels is that 60 years of environmental activities has kept Israel’s biodiversity in relatively good shape; but that many threats and challenges exist that leave no room for complacency. Perhaps the best hope will be the publication, in 2015, of Israel’s National Biodiversity Masterplan, with much energy at the conference spent discussing what it should include.


After a moment of silence in memory of Azaria Alon, MK Amir Peretz took the stage. The Israeli Minister for Environmental Protection delivered a passionate speech attacking the government’s plans to build a railway to Eilat and Interior Minister Gidon Sa’ar for appointing 5 new members to the Park and Nature Authority Council, who Peretz believes, were appointed to authorize the railway’s route through protected nature reserves. Amir Peretz left no doubt in the mind of any of the over 500 people in the audience that he will do everything in his power to prevent this ‘megalomaniacal’ project from becoming a reality and that he stands with us to protect Israel’s nature.


The other major statement came from SPNI CEO Moshe ‘Kosha’ Pakman officially announcing SPNI’s appeal to National Council for Planning and Building against the approval of plans for an enormous housing project on former Israel Military Industries land in the Sharon region. SPNI is appealing to the National Council for Planning and Building to totally reimagine their plans and include a park to preserve 373 plant species and contiguous open spaces in the Central Region. SPNI hopes “the park would protect the public’s natural assets and serve as a center for educational activities and public events for many residents.” This appeal embodied many of the ideas stemming from the conference of the need to protect open spaces and their contiguousness through national strategic planning.


Throughout the day experts from SPNI, Israel Parks and Nature Authority, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, government ministries and the business world presented their ideas and debated planning reforms, environmental education, community engagement, urban nature, and the role of business in preserving biodiversity. There emerged a general consensus among the experts that Azaria Alon has left behind a healthy legacy. However, a lot of work remains for us and all Israelis to ensure that we and our children can enjoy a country with birds, butterflies and flowers. As in Azaria Alon’s famous sentiment, what is life without them really worth? 

Category: Our Global Community

Tagged under: Jerusalem Environment and Nature Conference, biodiversity


From Sweden To The Negev

October 15, 2013

Support SPNI by purchasing Naturally Silver jewelry today

Drawing Inspiration from her native Sweden and her Negev surroundings Sara Kallus created a unique jewelry collection, Naturally Silver

Born and raised in Sweden, Sara Kallus has made her home in Mitzpeh Ramon. Gathering inspiration from the wooded landscapes of her childhood and the stark vistas of the Negev, she created a unique line of jewelry, Naturally Silver. Naturally Silver, uses small pieces of natural Israel, while giving back to Israeli nature in a big way. Sara has pledged 70% of the proceeds from the collection to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Sara began her life in the Swedish countryside. Born to a Swedish mother and an Israeli father, she grew up with a strong connection to her natural surroundings. "I was raised to take care of nature." Sara explained that she often played outdoors, "We had a tree house in the forest, went skating on lakes and skiing in winter." She also described picnics in the forest after school with sandwiches and hot chocolate.

After finishing her education in Media Engineering at Midsweden University, Sara travelled to the French Alps. While working at a ski resort there, Sara met her future husband. When he returned home to Israel he regretted not exchanging details with the stunning blonde he had met on vacation. In true Israeli fashion he did not give up, months later, he sent a friend visiting France to the ski resort to track down Sara and get her contact information. After a year cultivating a relationship across the distance, Sara made the leap and moved to Israel.

Although she had an Israeli father, Sara's move to Israel was not an obvious one. Sara grew up disconnected from the Jewish and Israeli communities in Sweden. After arriving in Israel, Sara continued to pursue her career in computers and IT. It was only when she started her family that she found a new direction in jewelry.

While pregnant with her first child Sara took a course in silversmithing. She began designing simple, light, silver pieces with the clean lines typical of Swedish taste. "I couldn't find the style of jewelry I was looking for in the shops in Israel," Sara said. "I want my jewelry to be light weight, comfortable and all-around."

After receiving complements from friends and strangers alike, Sara was encouraged to embrace her new hobby full time and start selling her jewelry. Her success with NAKI Design led her to want to give back to Israel. "It really hurt me when I came here, the lack of education when it comes to preserving the environment," Sara explained. The urge to do a project that would allow her to give back led Sara to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

The Naturally Silver collection is a unique collection designed to help support the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Small pieces of Israeli nature are carefully selected, leaves are put in a bath of electrolytic solution to deposit silver on the surface, twigs have been selected, molded and worked into bracelets, rings and earrings, each creating a one of a kind piece of jewelry, with a small part of Israel at the core.

Wearing Sara's Naturally Silver collection connects you to the Land of Israel and reminds you of the country's precious natural beauty. The clean lines of the collection combine Sara's wintry forested heritage with the textured, broad expanses of the desert she has made home.

Today Sara lives in Mitzpeh Ramon with her husband and two children. They are expecting a new addition to the family this winter.

Purchase Naturally Silver Jewelry

Category: Our Global Community


Israel's 4th Annual Community Garden Conference

October 9, 2013

Israel has over 300 community gardens across the country

Lawrence meets activists at the 4th Annual Conference for Community Gardens

Earlier this week I visited Israel’s 4th National Community Garden Conference in Haifa. I was overwhelmed by the energy of the attendees, most of them activists in one of the 300 or so Community Gardens that currently exist in Israel. In Israel there are very few private gardens in homes, but lots of spare open spaces between apartment buildings in densely built up areas. It is these spaces where Community Gardens are built. SPNI coordinates dozens of Community Garden projects which bring greenery and nature into neighborhoods but also improve quality of life into neighborhoods and create a platform for social cohesion.

Before the conference officially kicked off gardeners were showing off their wares, sharing gardening techniques and growth strategies in a tightly packed corridor. Local schools who had their own gardens were also there showing off their own impressive and colorful harvests (schools have their own educational gardens too, so they know that vegetables are grown from the ground and not from the supermarket).

Before the Israeli tradition of countless opening speeches, attendees were shown a short video on the Community Garden process was shown. The video illustrated how a wasteland in a neighborhood Migdal Ha’Emek was transformed into a functioning Community Garden. At the beginning of the film the area was a typical Israeli inner city wasteground; yellow dirt, random tufts of yellow grass and lots of discarded plastic bottles and sweet wrappers and some abandoned sofas. By the end of the film the area was green, furnished and populated by local children and families – in short completely unrecognizable. The residents’ involvement was laid out in the film from the initial meeting when the idea for a Community Garden was presented, to residents planning the layout of the garden, preparing the land and designing the patterns of the mosaics that now decorate the seats (made out of recycled materials) in the Community Garden.

Community Garden on the Mediterranean Coast

I echo the opinion of Yoel Rasvozov MK (Yesh Atid) who spoke at the event that Community Gardens are a modern expression of the idea that the land of Israel is something that binds the Jewish people. Community Garden’s help connect Israelis to the land in a real way beyond the concrete, glass and brick that our urban environment consists of. Globally the Community Garden movement is gaining traction as a way of growing food and natural therapy. That could be the future for Israeli Community Gardens too, but for now, in my opinion, they are a natural successor to the Kibbutz movement – land that people farm for pleasure while breaking down social boundaries and connecting to their homeland. They also fulfill an important role in the by creating common ground (pun intended) between Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Israeli Arabs and immigrants from Russian, Ethiopia and the rest of the world who come together as equals to improve their neighborhoods from the bottom up.

I’m now just waiting for my city of Modi’in to set aside some land for our own Community Garden.

Category: Our Global Community

Tagged under: gardening, Community Gardens, Conferences, Haifa


Summer Photo Contest

August 20, 2013

Photo Contest Grand Prize Winner - Barbara Nicca

Congratulations to our Grand Prize Winner - Barbara Nicca

Our Summer Photo Contest has been a huge success. We received nearly one thousand pictures from amatuer photographers all over the world. We were also able to expand our online community, with our Facebook page now up to over 8,700 likes.

We would like to thank all of our participants, for their wonderful submissions. It has been amazing to see Israel through your eyes and your camera lenses.

We are especially happy to extend a warm Congratulations to Barbara Nicca, from Switzerland, for her beautiful photography. Barbara's photo of the first Almond Blossom on a bare winter tree won in our Flower category. The photo of a Spur-Winged Lapwing, venturing from its watery habitat onto a train platform, perfectly captured how Israel's wildlife must also share our cities with us. It was selected as the winning photograph in our Urban Nature category. 

Thank you Barbara for framing SPNI's mission to preserve Israel's open spaces and wildlife!

Enjoy Barbara's photographs, here!

Category: Our Global Community

Tagged under: Photo Contest


Mother Nature is the Best Model

July 21, 2013

Quote from the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv

Nature through Art

Although nature is beautiful to see in person, different style of artists are able to help bring a new appreciation of our natural world to the public.  The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, is currently hosting two different nature photography exhibits.  The first exhibit is the International Nature Photography Exhibition which contains gorgeous photos from all over the world.  These photos are broken down into several different categories based on the subject of the picture or the age of the photographer.  The other exhibit was the Local Nature Photography Exhibition which consisted of photos that were taken throughout Israel.  These photos showed not only the beauty of Israel but also Israel’s vast biodiversity.  The Local Nature Photography Exhibition was judged by a series of environmental experts that included many members of SPNI.

From the Nature of Material Exhibit at the JBO


Another form of art that is using nature as a model is sculpting.  The Jerusalem Bird Observatory was hosting the Nature of Material exhibit.  This exhibit was created by the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Department of Ceramics and Glass.  The sculptures were of various aspects and interpretations of nature.  


Category: Nature Trips

Tagged under: Photography, Nature, Sculpture, Jerusalem Bird Obeservatory